AN ODE OF THANKS FOR CERTAIN CIGARS.
_TO CHARLES ELIOT NORTON._
Luck, my dear Norton, still makes shifts,
To mix a mortal with her gifts,
Which he may find who duly sifts.
Sweets to the sweet,--behold the clue!
Why not, then, new things to the gnu,
And trews to Highland clansmen true?
'Twas thus your kindly thought decreed
These weeds to one who is indeed,
And feels himself, a very weed,--
A weed from which, when bruised and shent,
Though some faint perfume may be rent,
Yet oftener much without a cent.
But imp, O Muse, a stronger wing
Mount, leaving self below, and sing
What thoughts these Cuban exiles bring!
He that knows aught of mythic lore
Knows how god Bacchus wandered o'er
The earth, and what strange names he bore.
The Bishop of Avranches supposes
That all these large and varying doses
Of fable mean naught else than Moses;
But waiving doubts, we surely know
He taught mankind to plough and sow,
And from the Tigris to the Po
Planted the vine; but of his visit
To this our hemisphere, why is it
We have no statement more explicit?
He gave to us a leaf divine
More grateful to the serious Nine
Than fierce inspirings of the vine.
And that _he_ loved it more, this proved,--
He gave his name to what he loved,
Distorted now, but not removed.
Tobacco, sacred herb, though lowly,
Baffles old Time, the tyrant, wholly,
And makes him turn his hour-glass slowly;
Nay, makes as 'twere of every glass six,
Whereby we beat the heathen classics
With their weak Chians and their Massics.
These gave his glass a quicker twist,
And flew the hours like driving mist,
While Horace drank and Lesbia kissed.
How are we gainers when all's done,
If Life's swift clepsydra have run
With wine for water? 'Tis all one.
But this rare plant delays the stream
(At least if things are what they seem)
Through long eternities of dream.
What notes the antique Muse had known
Had she, instead of oat-straws, blown
Our wiser pipes of clay or stone!
Rash song, forbear! Thou canst not hope,
Untutored as thou art, to cope
With themes of such an epic scope.
Enough if thou give thanks to him
Who sent these leaves (forgive the whim)
Plucked from the dream-tree's sunniest limb.
My gratitude feels no eclipse,
For I, whate'er my other slips,
Shall have his kindness on my lips.
The prayers of Christian, Turk, and Jew
Have one sound up there in the blue,
And one smell all their incense, too.
Perhaps that smoke with incense ranks
Which curls from 'mid life's jars and clanks,
Graceful with happiness and thanks.
I pledge him, therefore, in a puff,--
rather frailish kind of stuff,
But still professional enough.
Hock-cups breed hiccups; let us feel
The god along our senses steel
More nobly and without his reel.
Each temperately 'baccy _plenus_,
May no grim fate of doubtful genus
E'er blow the smallest cloud between us.
And as his gift I shall devote
To fire, and o'er their ashes gloat,--
Let him do likewise with this note.
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.
Harper & Brothers.]